Social media and review sites such as TripAdvisor have become very important forums for customers to share their experiences. As a salon or spa owner, you have no control over what is written about your business and you’re often not given notice of a poor review or complaint. However, reputation is everything, so the last thing you want is a bunch of poor reviews that will potentially put off future customers.
Complaints come in many different forms. The easiest cases to deal with are when customers tell you directly that they’re unhappy; the hardest are the issues you don’t know about, but where the customer feels strongly enough to write a poor review about your services.
Regardless of the type of complaint, there are a few key tips for dealing with them effectively. Firstly, don’t take them personally. When someone criticises your salon, it’s natural to think “that’s not true”. However, I have a saying that “all feedback is good feedback.”
Even if you don’t agree, it’s someone else’s opinion of your spa, which makes it valid, and it gives you insight into how they feel about your business, which makes it valuable.
These are my top tips for effective complaint handling:
1. Implement a written complaints procedure
Having a written process you can train the whole team on will ensure customer complaints are recognised and dealt with. It helps to have an escalation process that runs from the bottom up so that if, for example, a therapist or receptionist notices something wrong, they have the authority to fix it for the client right there and then, without having to involve a manager.
Make sure your process includes a form detailing all aspects of the complaint, as this will help you track and review it. This also means that if a complaint escalates, you have a written record of the events at the time. Ask both the staff member and the customer to sign it, in agreement that it represents an accurate record of what happened.
2. Encourage a supportive team environment
Everyone makes mistakes from time to time and your team is no different. If a mistake is made that involves a client, the last thing you want is for the therapist to feel too worried to tell you about it. This could lead to the client leaving your premises unhappy without you even being aware of it.
You can’t be with your team all the time, so it’s important to create a supportive environment in which they feel comfortable enough to speak about things that have gone wrong – so you can step in and rectify the problem straight away.
You should share all feedback with your staff in your daily team brief but spend five times longer talking about the great feedback than about the poor. This will help staff put things in perspective and keep motivation up by reassuring them that they’re still doing a fabulous job.
3. Deal with feedback promptly, in person or over the phone
The quicker you deal with the complaint, the easier it will be to resolve. Aim to deal with 95% of potential issues before they even become a formal complaint and while the customer is still in the spa. If someone has made a mistake, own up to it and apologise. Clients are much more responsive if you’re honest, instead of trying to pretend you’ve done nothing wrong.
At Pure Spa & Beauty we have a policy of always resolving complaints face to face or over the phone. Emails are a terrible way to deal with complaints because no matter how well you think you’ve worded something, the recipient will interpret it in their own way. People sometimes take to email to have a rant, but when you speak to them, they are much more reasonable.
4. Manage your online reviews
Review sites such as TripAdvisor can be both good and bad. If you have lots of good reviews it can really help your spa or salon’s reputation and although you’re not allowed to incentivise people to leave a positive review, you should advertise the fact that you’re on the site and ask customers to leave feedback.
Don’t panic if someone leaves a negative review. First, check if the post complies with the review site’s guidelines. For example, on TripAdvisor, they must be an actual customer; walking past your spa and deciding they don’t like the look of it doesn’t count, and you can ask review sites to remove reviews you feel breach their guidelines.
Secondly, always leave a comment, regardless of whether the review is good or bad. If it’s a poor review, include an apology for the fact that the customer didn’t feel the service lived up to their expectations, and an email address for them to contact you directly. If you resolve a complaint for a customer who left negative feedback, ask them to go back on the site and leave a positive comment on their original review. This will show potential new clients that you have resolved the issue to that customer’s satisfaction.
Complaints are never pleasant to deal with, but if you take an objective and proactive approach, you can make a positive difference and end up keeping or gaining a client for life. PB
Becky Woodhouse is chief executive of Pure Spa & Beauty, which has seven locations across Scotland, plus a new London site. Woodhouse, who set up the award-winning business in 2001, has a background as a chartered accountant and previously worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers.